07/01/2005 11:00PM

Galloping Gal: Leading rider, lousy post


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Helen Pitts wasted little time winning for the first time as a head trainer, taking the ninth race Friday at Churchill Downs. She could win another, on Monday at Arlington, with Galloping Gal in the featured Possibly Perfect Stakes.

Pitts just was handed a golden opportunity, moving up from her longtime position as assistant to trainer Ken McPeek, who has become a bloodstock agent. But she was less fortunate in the post-position draw for the $40,000 Possibly Perfect, a 1 1/8-mile prep for the Modesty Handicap. Galloping Gal is saddled with the outside gate in an 11-horse field. There's a substantial run to the first turn, but wide draws generally have proven difficult to overcome on the Arlington turf.

Galloping Gal, who attracts leading rider Shaun Bridgmohan, has lost all six of her starts this year, but faces rivals of slightly lesser quality in the Possibly Perfect.

Still, the spot is not easy. Beret shipped from Chicago to Churchill for the first start of her 6-year-old season and failed to fire, finishing sixth, but she's a three-time winner on the Arlington grass course, and finished third in the 2003 Modesty.

My Dear Lady's lone win since being imported from Argentina came on dirt, but she has a touch of quality, as does Humorous Miss and Vitamin Bag, a 40-1 upset winner of an earlier overnight turf stakes at this meet. Vitamin Bag won one division of that split race, dubbed the Reluctant Guest, but Atlantic Frost was more impressive taking the other division, and she might step forward with another strong performance Sunday.

Trained by Mickey Goldfine for owner-breeder Arthur Appleton, Atlantic Frost was muddling through a string of maiden losses last season until she was switched to turf. Once there, she immediately improved, and has won 4 of 7 starts on grass, including a sharp three-length score in the May 29 Reluctant Guest.

Since then, Goldfine said, Atlantic Frost "hasn't lost any weight, she looks real good, and she's doing good." Atlantic Frost has won from just off the pace and from farther back in the field, and she has the tactical speed to overcome post 10.

"The only place she won't be is on the lead, I promise you that," Goldfine said. "The key for her is getting her to relax the first part of the race."

Atlantic Frost will need to conserve energy. She won her lone start at this 1 1/8-mile distance, but Goldfine still has questions.

"A mile and a sixteenth wouldn't bother me," he said. "A mile and an eighth - I'm concerned, but I'm still confident in her ability."